Emma Green, a Masters student in Ball State’s Center for Information and Communication Sciences, won the 2016 ITERA Student Paper Competition. Ms Green’s paper, Indiana Rural Broadband: Technical and Economic Feasibility, discusses progress and prospects for deployment of rural broadband by Indiana’s Regional Electric Membership Cooperatives.
The abstract of the winning paper:
The following work demonstrates the technical and economic feasibility of Regional Electric Membership Cooperative (REMC) deployment of broadband to rural areas, to uncover electric utility successes in deploying both smart grid and broadband technologies, and to suggest what steps Indiana REMCs might take in an effort to further improve the future of the state market in telecommunications. Following Indiana REMC implementation, smart grid technology will act as a driver for middle-mile substation distribution of fiber in rural areas. This technology allows for the extension of connectivity to rural households to accommodate automatic meter reading (AMR) technology and the examination of last-mile fiber network for rural broadband connectivity. In order for its implementation and deployment, policy recommendations must be considered as it allows for economic benefit. As stated in the 2015 Indiana Rural Broadband Report, “Indiana leads the Midwest in establishing a statewide broadband fiber optic infrastructure as a prerequisite to further investment in both wired and wireless broadband services”. In terms of the presence of pre-existing optical fiber networks, Indiana is currently considered an “overachiever.” While the state offers a backbone, there are great disparities in broadband access speeds in rural Indiana. The FCC report titled Broadband
Availability in America indicates that 14 percent of the population of Indiana is without access to the minimum 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband benchmark. While only three percent lack access to 25 Mbps service in urban areas, over 44 percent of Indiana’s rural population lacks access at these same speeds. REMCs must realize smart grid initiatives, partnerships, and government funding in order to build out middle-mile and last-mile services to rural Indiana and underserved areas.